an electric drain snake being used in a bathroom sink drain

Drain Snake

Originally contributed by Jeff Butler • last updated 3/2/2021

Few people enjoy a clogged drain, except maybe your local plumber. Sometimes, if it’s not so bad, you can clear it out using a liquid drain cleaner. For more difficult cases, a plunger may be required. But when you’ve got backed up pipes, and your plunger isn’t doing the trick, you’re probably going to need something a little more direct. To be able to get at the source of the clog, you’ll need to grab yourself a drain snake.

Definition

The term drain snake (sometimes called a plumbers snake or a toilet snake) typically refers to an auger tool that is used to unclog drains. The device usually consists of a fairly long, sturdy coil of metal that is thin and flexible enough to “snake” its way through various drain parts, including the P trap. The coil is commonly attached to a handle and reel at one end so it can be extended and retracted. While, the other end has hooks or blades for clearing blockages in the drain pipes. Drain snakes come in many sizes and variations, including electric and manual, for tackling different plumbing challenges.

What Do Plumbers Charge To Snake A Drain?

Typically, a clogged drain is something most homeowners can fix on their own. However, if you’ve tried some drain cleaner and a plunger to unclog those pipes and you’ve still got water backing up, you’re probably going to need a drain snake. You can either purchase the one you need or you can hire a plumber to do the task for you:

  • If you’ve decided to purchase a drain snake, make sure you’re getting the right one. There are several variations, including both manual and electric versions, larger ones for sewer drains, and scratch-free toilet snakes to protect your porcelain throne. They are widely available at most hardware stores or online.
  • Most drain snakes can simply be extended into the drain opening by winding out the reel (either manually or electrically). The coil may need to be twisted and turned to fit around corners and P traps if necessary. After the blockage has been cleared, the coil can be retracted back onto the reel.
  • If you’re going to call a plumber to come snake your drain, you could expect to pay anywhere from about $100 to $400 depending on how bad the clog is and how long it takes to clear it. However, many plumbers set a standard fee of $200 to clear a drain. (By comparison, to purchase a new drain snake that works for most household needs costs around $50 on average.
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